Ottawa makes the trip to Winnipeg today and since these two Canadian teams don't play each other very often, we talked to TJ (@tj_maughan) at Arctic Ice Hockey to better familiarize Silver Seven with Ottawa's opponent.
Amelia: Mark Scheifele has been making waves in his first full season in the NHL. Just how good has he been and how will his injury impact Winnipeg's playoff hopes? Did his injury change management's trade deadline plans?
TJ: Scheifele has come a long way since the season started back in October, predominantly with regards to his confidence. No longer does he fear driving the net with the puck and this has translated to him racking up points and inserting his name into a Calder Trophy nomination.
His injury will hamper the Jets' playoff hopes as players like Olli Jokinen and Devin Setoguchi will be asked to play over-and-above their current outputs to make up for his loss offensively. From the sounds of it, Jets' management was prepared to bolster their club for a playoff push, so the loss of Scheifele seems to have changed their mind.
Amelia: The Jets have been on a role since Paul Maurice took over behind the bench in January. What's the biggest difference between the Noel Jets vs. the Maurice Jets?
TJ: Winnipeg has been much more patient breaking the puck out of their zone and no longer relies solely on the dump-and-chase model to create offensive chances. Maurice has also been fortunate to have Ondrej Pavelec playing his best hockey of the season under his watch which has led to a few extra wins they weren't getting earlier this year. The statistics say that the Jets are marginally better under Maurice than they were Noel as it pertains to Corsi and Fenwick ratings, so hopefully the team can continue to build off this.
Amelia: After moving from the relatively weak Southeast Division to the Western Conference, many wondered how well the Jets would do. Has the change been worth it?
TJ: From a fan's standpoint, yes, the move has certainly been worth it. Winnipeg now plays in a conference where the majority of their games take place at 7:00PM CT, making it easier for us to schedule our evenings accordingly.
Furthermore it's nice to see the Jets kindle rivalries with divisional opponents the likes of Chicago, Minnesota and St. Louis, something that was lost in the Southeast.
The only downside to moving to the new conference format is that the Jets are no longer able to buoy their record against the horribly awful Southeast Division. To put it into perspective, Winnipeg went from a 10-8-0 record against divisional opponents last season to a 7-12-4 record in 2013-14. Considering the new scheduling format features more divisional play, this will have to improve in years to come should the Jets have playoff aspirations.
Amelia: There was lots of talk at the deadline about the possibility Dustin Byfuglien might move. Byfuglien stayed put and fellow blueliner Mark Stuart was re-signed. What do you make of the moves? How do Jets fans feel about young defensemen Jacob Trouba and Zach Bogosian? What happened to Tobias Enstrom?
TJ: With the salary cap going up, I can't be too upset with the money they are dedicating to the services of Mark Stuart. But with prospect Joshua Morrissey likely making his debut in 2-3 years, you have to ask where he fits in if Stuart is still around at that point as his NTC suggests he will.
Not trading Byfuglien is a non-issue. Management might have been more likely to move him had Scheifele stayed healthy, but if they still want to give the appearance they're committed to the playoffs, Byfuglien is integral to that facade.
Jacob Trouba is a gamer. He will be one of the NHL's best for years to come; of this I have no doubt. He's calm, cool and confident. He is a very good skater and can lay bone-crushing open ice hits. I think he will be at worst a poor man's Drew Doughty with the potential to be just as good. Fans wish that Bogosian was everything that Trouba has been, especially considering the dump truck full of money that was placed in his driveway last summer.
Enstrom has quietly been Enstrom-like. A methodical, two-way defenceman who hasn't been getting the breaks offensively as he has in years past. Moving him away from Byfuglien hasn't created the success Maurice thought it would as both are shells of themselves without each other.
Amelia: Ondrej Pavelec had a difficult first half of the season but has much better numbers since Paul Maurice took over. Which is the real Pavelec?
TJ: Can the answer be both? In all honesty, Pavelec is exactly what he purports to be: a goalie whose peaks and valleys dip far more than any other starter in this league. He has shown flashes of brilliance followed by pits of despair since the Thrashers moved here three years ago. The question on the minds of fans is if (or hopefully when) will management recognize this and go a different direction with their goaltending.